Living With Heart Failure
You can feel better when you have heart failure by taking your medicines as directed, having a healthy lifestyle, and avoiding things that make heart failure worse. Know what things you can do every day to stay healthy, what symptoms to watch for, and when to call a doctor.
- Take your medicines as directed. If you don't, your heart failure may get worse, or you may get Reference sudden heart failure Opens New Window.
- Try to avoid medicines that can make your heart failure worse. Before taking any new medicine, ask your doctor or a pharmacist if it's safe to take it with your heart failure medicines.
- Take a low-dose aspirin every day if your doctor advises it to prevent a stroke or heart attack. But higher doses of aspirin may make your heart failure worse. So talk to your doctor first about how much to take.
Having a healthy lifestyle
- Eat healthy foods.
- Limit sodium. Your doctor might recommend that you limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg a day. Limiting sodium can help you feel better and prevent sudden heart failure. Too much sodium makes it harder for your already-weakened heart to pump. Fluid may build up in your lungs—making it harder for you to breathe—and in your feet, ankles, legs, and belly.
- Exercise regularly. If you aren't already active, your doctor may want you to start exercising. Do not start exercising until you have talked with your doctor to make an exercise program that is safe for you. You could do it in a Reference cardiac rehabilitation program or on your own.
- Check your weight at the same time every day.
- Try to lose weight if you are overweight. Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly will help you lose weight. Even a few pounds can make a difference.
- Don't smoke. If you smoke, Reference try to quit. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and makes it harder to exercise. Avoid Reference secondhand smoke Opens New Window too.
- Limit alcohol. Moderate drinking is no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
- Limit your fluids if needed.
- Oxygen treatment. Your doctor may recommend Reference oxygen therapy to reduce your shortness of breath and increase your ability to exercise.
Avoiding things that make heart failure worse
Avoid triggers, such as too much salt (sodium) and certain medicines, that can cause sudden heart failure.
Treating your sleep problems
One Man's Story:
"I was having a lot of trouble getting enough sleep. I was snoring so bad that my wife was sleeping in another room. I'd wake up 7 times a night. Sometimes I'd wake up gasping for breath. The next day I'd be so tired that I'd fall asleep while doing my woodworking in the garage. And I was really fuzzy-headed. I couldn't remember anything.
"I thought it might be my heart failure. So I decided to talk to my doctor about it, and he suggested a sleep study. I found out that I have sleep apnea. I haven't been getting enough oxygen because of it. He put me on a CPAP machine at night. I've used it for the past 4 months.
"It took a little time to get used to sleeping with a mask. But I'm sleeping much better. Now if I wake up, it's only once, and I go right back to sleep. I feel so much better during the day."—Pete
This story is based on information gathered from many people living with heart failure.
Many people with heart failure have trouble sleeping. Your doctor may be able to find out what is causing your Reference sleep problems and help you get a good night's sleep.
- Opens New Window Sleep Apnea: Should I Have a Sleep Study? Opens New Window
- Reference Reference Insomnia: Improving Your Sleep
Having a healthy sex life
Most people with heart failure can still have an Reference active and safe sex life. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about having sex.
Unfortunately, sexual problems are common. Your interest may drop, or you may have shortness of breath or other symptoms that limit your ability to have sex. Men may have erection problems.
Talk to your doctor. You can get help for erection problems or other sexual troubles.
Other things you can do to take care of yourself
- Get help for depression and anxiety if you have them. Heart failure can be hard on your emotions. Many people with heart failure feel depressed or anxious. For more information on how to feel better, see Reference Coping With Your Feelings.
- Try some Reference tips for easier breathing, such as propping yourself up with pillows at night.
- Reference Avoid respiratory infections. Stay up to date on vaccines for flu and pneumonia.
- Learn how to make Reference activities like work, exercise, and travel easier. Talk to your doctor.
- Work with your Reference team of health professionals.
Help for caregivers
It can be rewarding to help a loved one with heart failure. But it's also a lot of work. And it can be hard emotionally.
If you are taking care of a loved one, make sure that you also take care of yourself. This can mean taking breaks by getting help from family or friends. You also may be able to use respite care. These services provide someone who will stay with your loved one while you get out of the house for a few hours.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Reference Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
- Topic Overview
- Health Tools
- What Increases Your Risk
- When to Call a Doctor
- Exams and Tests
- Treatment Overview
- Living With Heart Failure
- Coping With Your Feelings
- Other Treatment
- End-of-Life Decisions
- Other Places To Get Help
- Related Information